Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
1:00 AM 13th January 2024

Over A Quarter Of Parents Think School Isn’t Essential Every Day

Image by 14995841 from Pixabay
Image by 14995841 from Pixabay
A shocking new poll has revealed that over a quarter of parents believe the pandemic has shown that it is not essential for their children to attend school every day.

The polling, commissioned by the Centre for Social Justice (CSJ), found that nearly three in ten parents (28 per cent) surveyed agree that the pandemic has shown it is not essential for children to attend school every day.

The results of the YouGov poll appear in a new report The missing link: Restoring the bond between schools and families launched by the CSJ this week. The report explores the relationship between parents and schools, calling on Government to prioritise parental engagement as part of a national effort to curb crisis levels of absence.

“The Covid lockdowns have broken the contract of trust between schools and parents, and we need to repair it as a matter of extreme urgency.
The poll of 1,206 parents of children who are aged between 5-16 and enrolled in primary or secondary school, found that only a quarter (26 per cent) of parents say the school communicates with them well, while almost two in five (38 per cent) say the school does not communicate with them well enough.

While the majority of parents (77 per cent), say they trust their children’s school to provide a quality education, this figure drops to 70 per cent amongst parents of children in secondary schools.

Over a third of parents (35 per cent) said that they are worried about their child’s performance and would like more support from school, rising to 42 per cent among low-income households, while 18 per cent said they were worried about their child’s attendance and would like more support, rising to 24 per cent among low-income households. Less than 3 in 4 (70 per cent) of parents are confident their child’s needs are being met at school, with confidence dropping to 61 per cent among those with a child in secondary school.

The CSJ has led the charge on understanding and offering solutions to the high levels of absent children in our schools for the last three years. The most recent government data (Spring term 2023) reveals that severe absence from schools (absent for at least 50 per cent of school time) has returned to record highs (140,706 children). One in five children were persistently absent, meaning 20.6 per cent children missed 10 per cent or more of their school time.

In this new report, the CSJ calls on the Government to accelerate its response to crisis levels of school absence, recognising the need for schools and parents to share responsibility and work together.

Andy Cook, Chief Executive of the Centre for Social Justice said:
“The Covid lockdowns have broken the contract of trust between schools and parents, and we need to repair it as a matter of extreme urgency. The consequences of so many kids missing so much school will only result in unfulfilled lives, fractured communities, and spiraling costs to the taxpayer for picking up the pieces.

“We urgently need to refresh what schools are offering. Why is the school day so short, kicking out children onto the streets mid-afternoon to fend for themselves? Why do we starve state school pupils of the benefits of greater sport and enrichment?

“And as parents, we need to take responsibility for getting our kids to school and keeping them there.

“Treating parents as criminals for not thinking school is essential, for example by fining them, is not the answer. Rather, we need to rebuild a positive partnership between parents and schools. Research suggests that small charities and community organisations working with families on their patch have far greater impact on solving absence than leaving it just to schools and local authorities.”

The CSJ sets out a seven-point plan to turn the tide, at the centre of which is a focus on parental engagement and whole family support. Recommendations include an £80 million plan to establish 2,000 attendance mentors to work with parents and families to understand and remove the underlying barriers to school attendance, and the creation of a National Parental Participation Strategy, to help schools and parents work together more effectively.

Previous research by the CSJ has demonstrated the power of sport and physical activity in helping children engage with their education. A new Right to Sport for all secondary school pupils would close the ‘activity gap’ between state school pupils and their independently educated peers while also helping children better engage with their education.

The full seven-point plan is:

The Department for Education should create a National Parental Participation Strategy. This should include best practice guidance to help schools and parents to engage more meaningfully with each other.
Roll out attendance mentors nationwide in the immediate term.
Department for Education guidance on attendance should be made statutory.
Improve school attendance data metrics.
Recognise the value of relational work through youth clubs and services.
Introduce a Right to Sport in our schools.
Conduct a review into the effectiveness of fines and attendance prosecution.